Review: Mesarthim – Isolate

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After going through my album history from earlier this year to commence a sort of sketchy end-of-year recap, I came across this Mesarthim album from July which I had almost forgotten about altogether. After rechecking the tags, what piqued my interest? Black metal? Sure, I enjoy black metal. Horsehead nebula cover art? Space is one of my interests. Australian band? I happen to be fluent in bogan. Atmosphere? I guess we all need atmosphere, for uhhh… oxygen… Alright, let’s revisit this already.

Mesarthim appear to be a 2 piece band from somewhere in Australia, and as you can see, the info on their Encyclopaedia Metallum page is vague and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do a door-knock to find out more. While there may only be a few people down here, I don’t have that kinda disposable time or patience. The band’s debut album of six tracks clocks in at just over 43 minutes and is aptly titled Isolate. I’m in no way well-versed on the intricacies of space-themed atmospheric black metal. So if you’re looking for a review that compares this album to others based upon the finer details of the craft, then it would be best for you pick up your fucking sirium-encrusted pince-nez, being sure to only grab it holding your microfibre cloth and head back to your dark room (No, not that one! The one with the star-ceiling) to continue playing Ethereal Space Daleks IV: Chronicles of the Ethereal Space Daleks with the rest of your guild. What I will be able to do however, is offer an insight into this release from an outsider’s perspective, an outsider who possesses more than just a passing interest, that is.

 

Growing up listening almost exclusively to rock, punk and metal gave me a strong aversion to electronic music. Hell, I couldn’t even handle a band using keyboards for backing. I dismissed the entirety of what I’d deemed ‘inorganic’ music for the longest time, but as I’ve grown older I’ve become less vigilant opened my mind to electronic music and even begrudgingly accepted it ‘mingling’ with my sacred metal. These days, I don’t have any real qualms with such things. I definitely would not have enjoyed listening to something like Isolate a decade ago. The prominence of the layered keys and synth sounds would have been an immediate deal-breaker. Just to prove to you that I am not impaired by any lingering bias, I remind you that I reviewed the latest Dan Terminus album for this very site earlier in the year, and that album was straight from Synthtopia.

From the get-go, the listener is greeted with slow chordal riffs that are accompanied by a strata of synth that comes in slowly building waves. The harsh vocals comprised of that ever-so-familiar black metal tone give you that darkened vibe without the usual blasphemous undercurrent. The production seems to favour the atmospheric elements and puts them right up front in the mix, with the vocals and guitar rhythms casually lurking in the background. The percussion shifts between a balance of rolling double-bass with restraint on the snare and downplayed beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a rock track. If you enjoy what you hear so far, this album will most likely be something you should invest in as it has a somewhat homogenous nature, and you’ll get good value from your $1.

However, for me it lacked the punch required to really hammer home any kind of lasting impression. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where this album succeeds, such as my pick of the tracks ‘Abyss’ (#4), but for the most part it felt a little lacking. Which is a shame, as I had heard some hype regarding this album and the concept was appealing. I think if you’re going to have the guitars kicked back a gear you really need something more in terms of appeal. Some of the keys just sound like someone invited The Algorithm over to guest spot and they all ended up eating some benzo’s, having a great time and recording the result. I don’t want to be too harsh as I think this is an ambitious step to take for your debut album, and others seem to enjoy it, which is great but I think if some more texture was added (e.g. as found on A Diadem Of Dead Stars‘ recent albums) this really could have been a stellar (couldn’t resist) debut.

Give Isolate a listen and tell me how wrong I am in the comments below.

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  • Those sure are some glittery and sparkly sounding keyboards/synths. I’ll pass on this one. The new Drowning the Light is still my favorite Australian Black Metal album of the year I think Lizard Man. Good shit.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyWMutBpDrw

    • Gonna listen to this later cause of that album art

      • The riff at 2:40 in this song is so fucking good. Chills!

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPoxqDQu31g

        • That is a riff about which I would say that is a tasty riff! Getting Blut Aus Nord vibes from this

          • I never do Riff of the week. But I might have to submit this.

      • Vote for Jeb

        The Masterlord just rolled around in his grave.

        • why did you kill him?

          • Vote for Jeb

            I am not to blame.

          • that’s what any proficient murderer would say

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            The bugger fornicated one times too many, I think.

          • either that or he fucked his dragon too much

    • Lacertilian

      ‘Tis a great album that one.
      I’m racking my brain for a better Aussie BM release from this year but it’s not happening. I think most of the stuff I’ve really dug from 2015 down here has been DM, Instrumental or Black Thrash.

  • Boss the Ross

    I got this on a whim from their bandcamp a while back when i was getting some other ambient/atmospheric black metal. It was good, found some others i liked better though.

  • Vote for Jeb

    I enjoy this album, but not in the way I enjoy most metal albums. This is good background music for Civ V and Chill.

    • Vote for Jeb

      So by that token, I agree with the score. It’s a decent release for a very specific setting.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Ten minutes into Civ V and Chill and she gives you this look.

  • That cover instantly reminded me of Origins demo.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siJ9tJpSyRM

  • Dagon

    This album is as “pretty” as a black metal album can get, and I’m not sure if it really should be called black metal as much as having bm vocals and the occasional riff or blast, but always buried underneath the other elements.

    I like, but it’s not for everyone. As my benevolent former president friend said, it has become a go to album for when I need respite from the heaviness and for when I’m reading/studying.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    I dig it. What I’ve heard so far that is.
    But it’s def a background-music kinda thing.

  • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

    Lassy, youre my hero this year

    • Lacertilian

      Thanks mate, as someone else once said – Contrary to popular belief, flattery will get you everywhere.

  • Celtic Frosty

    I agree with your assessment. It’s really good background music, though. Sometimes I put it on while I’m working to help me focus.

  • Old Man Doom

    Yeah, synths definitely sound a little more EDM influenced than your general purpose spacy synths to add atmosphere. I would have liked to have heard more thematic intent for the atmosphere, meaning I want the space sounds to sound like space, not an EDM DJ. VYGR’s “Hypersleep” album is a great example of space atmospherics used tastefully and thematically. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTFO2yPSkXI

    • Lacertilian

      This video is not available but I’ll take your word for it OMD.

  • Waynecro

    I kinda dig this. You had me with that stellar joke.

    • Lacertilian

      I’m a black hole of shame, don’t encourage me!

      • Waynecro

        I think you’re actually a reverse black whole of awesome. Rather than sucking in anything and everything in proximity, you expel awesome jokes and protips about metal.

  • Brouroboris

    This is blackened vaporwave.